“Urgh!” my husband exclaimed, as he dropped on the leather couch in our family room.
I could see he was frustrated. Maybe this was the moment I had been waiting for, praying for. Over the years I had seen my husband become more and more lazy in his parenting and communications. We used to be on the same page with how we corrected and taught the children, but as his busy life consumed more of his time and energy, he started relaxing in his parenting style and had begun to lose touch with his role in the home.
He still saw himself as the leader and father of the family, but the children didn’t necessarily see him that way. Since I was calmer than my husband and more consistent with teaching and correcting our children than he was, the children started respecting me, but manipulating him. I felt bad as I saw the children growing further and further away from their father, so I prayed daily that he would feel motivated to change his course and find principles in his communications again.
At this time in our marriage, I couldn’t talk to my husband about how I felt about these things because he didn’t like anyone to correct him. He viewed my comments, which were made from a place of love and concern, as criticism. Thankfully, we have both taken the time over the years to improve ourselves and our marriage relationship, so now we are in a place where we seek correction from each other.
A Learning Moment
“What do you want?” I said.
“What do you mean ‘what do I want?’ That’s a pretty broad question,” he replied.
“Well, you are obviously frustrated. You just sat down with a deep sigh. You must want something. What do you want? What do you want for yourself and for your life right now?” I questioned him again.
“I just want the kids to do what I say,” He confessed.
“Oh, okay. Just say ‘I’m giving you an instruction…’ before you tell them what to do. The children know the steps to following instructions. If you pre-teach them in that way before instructing they will understand you better,” I explained.
For years I had taught my children four basic communication and self-government skills and they were good at them. My husband actually knew the skills too; he just didn’t choose to communicate with them. The most basic of the skills was Following Instructions. The steps to Following Instructions are:
Look at the person giving instruction with a calm face, voice and body
Say “okay” or ask to disagree appropriately
Do the task immediately
Check back when the task is complete
My husband looked at me as a large smile spread across his face. “Are you saying I need to use the ‘Four Basic Skills’ again?”
“Well, I think that these skills — Following Instructions, Accepting No Answers, Accepting Consequences and Disagreeing Appropriately — are skills for life. So, yes. I guess you can say that as parents we can’t stop teaching them these important skills,” I said.
“Okay. I will use the skills again. I guess I assumed that they should just remember to obey once they were told to,” he confessed.
Now I was smiling. I had been praying that my husband would want to talk about the best way to teach the children, the way we used to discuss it. My heart was thrilled, we were finally becoming unified the important mission of raising our children again. “Honey, that was a great couple’s meeting.” I said.
“A couple’s meeting?” he asked.
“Sure, these short meetings about what we want are vital to creating the kind of family we are hoping to have. If we have these meetings regularly, you can get lots of what you want. If you want dinner by a certain time, or more time to cuddle and talk, you just need to tell me and I can help you get more of what you want.”
At this moment shock set into my husband’s face. “You would make dinner by 6:00 pm every day if I said I wanted it?” he asked in disbelief.
“I can’t say I would be perfect, but if you really wanted it, I would try to help you get what you want,” I assured him. “That is what people who love people do. But, if we don’t ever talk about things deliberately, then I won’t know what you want and can’t help you get it.”
“Okay, let’s have regular meetings,” he said with enthusiasm.
Lessons Learned And Wants Received
So, what do all dads want? They want their children to respect them and they want their wives to understand and help them. Don’t we all want understanding and respect? These are two of the most important things to all people.
This year for Father’s Day, give the dad in your family what he wants most — to feel your love and understanding and to have peace at home. Maybe this year focus more on how you communicate with him instead of focusing only on a gift. Of course he will still love that new tool or ticket to the big game. But if that game or tool comes with deep love shown through unity, understanding and respect, then the dad in your life will see himself as the luckiest man alive.
To find out how to teach your family the Four Basic Skills or how to have meaningful couple’s meetings, visit http://teachingselfgovernment.com